"People will make simple assumptions based on this one case and that’s unfortunate because they should not"
Oh, simple assumptions like "there are at least a dozen companies in the US alone in a market capable of supporting at most two", or "a p-i-n junction is a p-i-n junction is a p-i-n junction and all that matters is cost, it makes more difference than a measelly 0.25% improvement in efficiency", or "where exactly is the recurrent revenue in all this to support the gazzilions startups and companies chasing an economically unfeasible solution"?
Every few months for the past 3-4 years I have been getting pinged for this or that solar opportunity. I have declined them all on the spot on the theory that we are in a massive overinvestment. I may have been early, but not wrong :-)
Biggest and most profitable solar company in the world today is still a US solar company - First Solar, they perveil because
1) Technology, 2) Cost competiveness 3) Right management strategy.
1) doesn't mean it can survive if 2) is basically doomed. US$1.5B, even so called China governement backed solar companies did not spend so much money when there is no mature product/market for their special product.
The whole world is giving out incentives for solar energy and solar companies, it doesn't exclude US companies. US governement doesn't give much incentives as compared to other leading countries as of today. US companies need to be "competitve" in every aspect. The same standard for every industry not just solar.
A lot of counties spend less than 5B in incentives and create at least 50000 jobs in solar area alone. We should ask what's wrong with our governement. Money has been spent, but where is the job?
One thing is for sure: If you don't reach for a goal you won't get it. Solar energy will have its place, as will LED bulbs. Mistakes are made when we characterize these things with rhetoric instead of facts going into the game rather than 20-20 hindsight when we fail.
A key problem for solar is that for most of us the energy source is available directly to us only half the time and that is the top end estimate. So unless there is a suitably large enough grid connected array spread over all the country, it will have little measurable effect on our overall energy demands.
A similar, but more serious problem exists for wind farm power generation.
Subsidies are necessary in certain circumstances (Example: rural electrification projects under the USDA in the 1930's) but I would prefer the subsidy for the widespread deployment of proven rather than speculative technologies.
As for China 'cornering' the market, I put as much blame on us for our energy short sightedness as I do them for seeing and acting on what we should have done quite some time ago.
The question now becomes: What do we do about it? And do we have the guts to do it?
The interesting thing about payback period for a home roof installation is that you need to right size the installation, so you only supply a baseload level of power and get the rest from the grid. This gets you a much lower overall cost with a shorter payback. This is how the lease to own PV companies optimise the installation for you.
It's a basic mischaracterization to say that the Chinese are investing primarily in solar. The Chinese are prudently investing in a broad spectrum of potential energy solutions including solar, wind, hydro, coal (some with carbon capture), nuclear, thorium, etc. The Chinese are smart enough to know that solar cannot solely supply their energy needs.
Solyndra is but one business failure in an overhyped industry. Other companies and technologies will emerge, assuming that the capital is available.
It should also be noted that one country is running budget and trade surpluses while the other is running massive budget and trade deficits. These policies do have consequences.
Alt energy is an imature industry which still needs seed momney, the 10'sB$ subsidies to traditional Fossil fuel companies, Nuclear Industry every year are what are no longer needed and tax payers should not still be subsidising. After 50-100years in business these industries should stand on their own.
Here is where you can calculate in excruciating detail.
There are now lots of solar lease to buy companies that you just call up give them your adress and they check using google earth and give you a quote on how much you will save per month (or not). No money down etc. They maintain/monitor via the web and guarantee a minumum energy per month....
Elon Musk of Paypal/solarX/EV cars etc founded this one :
"A monument to delusional subsidies provided by wishful politicians"
The "wishful" Chinese politicians just seem to have targeted this market more succesfully than our politicians have.
The nice thing about the European subsidies is it helped establish a big enough market that competition has finally driven prices to viable levels even without subsidy. Same is true for wind.
Deploying Nuclear plant is too risky for private corporations, so they have to have massive govt loan and disaster insurance guarantees..... The loan gurantees and seed money for Alt energy has been trivial in comparison to all these mature industries that should have stood on their own decades ago.
In the case of Solyndra,Brightstar and many of the new energy sources the VC's have actually put up a lot of capital.
Silicon Valley would not exist if it were not for the cold war,space program and the associated huge govt subsidies/seed money for semi-conductor technology for missile and other systems.